Friday, April 5, 2013

Confessions of a Gaming Grandma

Caleb said he got into the building by using his biotic jumping ability and clambered over the shipping containers and crawled in through an opening.  Since I didn't invest in biotic legs, I had to find a way in by my wits.  That involved dropping down through a hole into an underground hallway that clearly led into the building but I was stopped by a flooded passageway that was charged with electrical current.  After much trial and error, I tossed a couple of empty boxes down that hallway to discharge two explosive mines that barred my way.  I picked up a container, crawled onto a large pipe that ran the length of the hall above the water line, all the while carrying that container.  I got to the end of the passage, dropped the container into the water and scrambled across it onto a barricade.  I reached around and retrieved the container, climbed over the barricade and edged along another pipe on the opposite wall, down the hall and around the corner.  And so forth until I was able to pass beyond the flooded area onto dry footing.  What a rush of excitement and a thrill of accomplishment!  I texted Caleb immediately to tell him how I had gotten into the building.

I was playing Deus Ex - Human Revolution on the XBox.  The game was a Christmas present from my son Ben and I had convinced my grandson Caleb to play.  Of course, Caleb had sped past me on his own XBox and finished, even though he had started weeks after me. Over the next three days I also finished it, choosing the ending option to NOT lie about the twisted manipulation of biotically enhanced humankind and let humanity decide whether or not to proceed with man-made evolution.  Very satisfying conclusion to 40+ hours of gaming.

So, you might wonder why someone like me, a 60 year old woman, is a gamer.  I ask myself that all the time.  I have been slowly and inexorably won over by the medium and there's no turning back.  At first, it was just a lark, mostly to please Ben.  He said, 'Watch this, Momma!  You'll love it!"  And as entertained as I was, I had NO CLUE what it was that I was doing.  Actually, he did most of the playing and handed me the controller once in awhile and I would entertain HIM trying to learn to navigate.  If you have never tried it, don't laugh.  People who have grown up with controllers in their hands have NO IDEA how difficult it is to learn to control two joysticks and a D-pad, two buttons and two triggers, all the while trying to accomplish a goal, solve a puzzle, or the worst, shoot or be shot by some wretched looking alien.
The above boring video is me, ooooooh ages ago (like last year even) when I really sucked at playing.

Ben started me out by letting me play coop with him through the Halo franchise.  We played through so fast I almost remember nothing.  But I eventually grew to love the characters and the story line and began to care about the outcomes.  Then he and I played Portal 2 all the way through on coop.  Then I played through it on single player and I actually began to get a handle on moving around in the virtual world.  Next came the Half-Life franchise.  That took a long time but it was really fun, albeit a lot over my head.  When I came upon the tough scenes I'd just hand the controller over to Ben who would deftly execute his way through the perils for me.

Then I started the game that changed it all for me: Mass Effect 2.  I never played the first one, just jumped right into the second installment.  Ben kept telling me, "Mom, you're going to love this.  You'll start feeling as if this is really your ship and your crew."  If you aren't familiar with this type of first person shooter game, they are incredible entertainment.  Imagine taking a well written novel, turned into a well crafted movie that YOU are in, and you interact with characters and make choices that determine the outcome of the game, reflecting your morals, ethics and loyalties.  You bet you get involved, and you care!  You pursue your crew and win their affection and prove your loyalty and in the end, these choice effect the outcome of the game!

So, this was the first game I ever played without someone leading me by the hand.  I took my time, began it on 'easy' (and eventually moved up to a more challenging level of difficulty) and became "Jane Shepherd, Commanding Officer of the SSV Normandy."  I even painted myself in uniform at the command post of 'my ship.'

I took most of the game to get better at shooting while strafing and running and dodging enemies. Some of the choices that I made I regretted later because I lost the loyalty of one of my main characters and was never able to completely win Miranda's trust.  I never indulged in any of the romance scenes but I hear tell they were pretty intense.  I just don't need that in my imagination.  When 2 ended I was, like millions of other gamers, on the edge of my seat waiting for the last installment.  Of course, when it came out, I spent every spare moment playing the game, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning.  

Halo 4 came out and I played that through on my own, as well as playing multi-player with Ben, Caleb, and eventually my younger grandson, Jordan.  I have to admit it's gratifying to see their admiration at their grandmother playing their games.  But I also have to insist sometimes that they "let me" play with them because they are so much better that I slow them down.  I run out of cover and get killed, wait to get respawned, run out of cover and get shot.  "Hey guys, cover me, will ya?  Oh well, I'll catch you all later!"

Depending on the game, there are brainteasers and puzzles to solve.  I love the games that give you lots of different ways to succeed.  Deus Ex did just that for me.  I was able to use a combination of skills to advance, not just shooting my way through.  In fact, this game has bonuses for people who play without being discovered or raising alarm.  I can't imagine how long it would take to solve that game without ever having an encounter with the antagonists.  

Anyway, by the time I'm 3/4 of the way through with a game, I'm flowing good and feeling competent and enormously PROUD of myself.  Then the game ends.  Sometimes it is three or four months before I begin another game and honestly, it takes me forever to get my skills back and feel confident.  But I hate to start another game immediately afterwards because I like to spend some time relishing it.  It's like finishing a good book or movie; I never like to plug in another movies as soon as I finish one or pick up another novel the minute I close the cover.  If I would jump into another game, I'd be a more proficient gamer by now.  But that's okay, I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I do have a wonderful time playing.

Does anyone know of a good first person shooter RPG that I can play that doesn't have too much blood and guts and too much cussin' and stuff?  I sure need another game.